May 11, 1996 is a landmark date for all climbers. It was then that Everest became the scene of a terrible tragedy. A commercial expedition that conquered Chomolungma was hit by a blizzard, which resulted in the death of 8 people. Anatoly Bukreev, an expedition guide, heroically rescued three clients, but later the assessment of his actions was ambiguous. On the famous mountaineer nicknamed "the tiger of the Himalayas" and the tragic events of May 1996, Ekaterina Astafieva tells.
From the Urals to the Himalayas
Anatoly Bukreev was born in 1958 in the city of Korkino in the Chelyabinsk region. Hardly anyone could have imagined then that he would be perhaps the most famous alpinist in Europe and America, who had conquered 11 mountains with a height of more than 8 thousand meters. Anatoly made his first small expeditions in the Ural Mountains at the age of 12. In his student years for the first time he conquered the four thousand.
Above 7 thousand meters climbed to the Pamirs as part of the national team of Kazakhstan. In 1987 alone he conquered Lenin Peak. After 2 years, he was part of the Second Soviet Himalayan Expedition and made a traverse (a special kind of ascent when at least 2 peaks are conquered at the same time) at the four peaks of the eight-height Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas. In 1990, Buckreev reached the peak of McKinley in Alaska, in May 1991 - the Himalayan peak of Dhaulagiri, and in the fall of the same year - Everest. Anatoly will rise three more times to the world's highest mountain, and the third expedition will turn into a real tragedy.
Anatoly Bukreev, photo by Linda Wiley
By the number of ascents per year, Bukreev set a world record: from May 17, 1995 to May 17, 1996, he passed 5 peaks. Alone, he conquered Lhotse, Shisha Pangmu, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II. The climber basically did not use oxygen during high-altitude ascents. In the 90s, Bukreev began to work as a guide-consultant in foreign expeditions: as many of his acquaintances noted, at that time it was the only opportunity to go mountaineering.
Anatoly Bukreev and Vladimir Balyberdin when climbing Everest in 1991
Physicist and mountaineer
Bukreev was remembered as a closed but very reliable person. He was very versatile: he received a diploma of a physics teacher and a ski coach, went to the mountains and played the guitar perfectly. But at Weston de Walt, who worked with Anatoly on the book The Ascension, Bukreev made a painful impression. The author first met the mountaineer after the notorious events. He writes: “I saw pictures of Anatolia taken before the Everest tragedy.
Slim, fit, with a trusting smile - that’s how I imagined it. When I entered the house, he slowly rose from his chair to greet me. I saw tired, hollow eyes, blackened lips and the tip of the nose (traces of frostbite) and a look that was removed from everything around me. It seemed that I saw before him only his physical shell, and the spirit was in a different place inaccessible to me. ” That was the fateful expedition that made it.
Anatoly Bukreev in his famous bright hat
In the 90s among foreign tourists it was popular for big money, accompanied by experienced guides to conquer famous heights. The tragic expedition "Mountain madness" was one of the attempts to commercialize Chomolungma. Its leader was Scott Fisher, an experienced mountaineer. In parallel with the “Mountain Madness”, Everest was conquered by another commercial expedition “Adventure Consultants”, led by Rob Hall. The composition of the group was similar: customers were not newcomers, but the eight thousand meters never conquered.
Expedition "Adventure Consultants" in the base camp
Everything is not according to plan
Expeditions had to face failures and difficulties throughout the journey. From the very first days the climbers started having health problems, during the acclimatization climb, participants noticed the remains of a climber on one of the slopes. On the day of the ascent, an icy wind was blowing, the speed of which reached 100 km / h, the equipment did not have time to be fixed in time, which is why delays constantly occurred. The expedition left the camp at an altitude of 7,900 meters at midnight and by 5.30 am reached an altitude of 8,500 meters. Here, the climbers had to stop at the “balcony”, a place where there is almost no oxygen and the wind is so strong that a person will not last here for long. However, here we had to wait because of unprepared equipment.
He is back
The first to reach the summit of Chomolungma was Anatoly Bukreev, followed by several other people. But most of the members of the expedition did not have time until 14.00, the time when it was necessary to turn back in order to have time to go down in time. Nevertheless, the participants continued to ascend, and Bukreev had already started descending, and by 5 pm he reached the tents. The weather was getting worse, a real storm arose, which covered all the marks on the way to the camp. Anatoly began to urge people in tents to go with him in search of the remaining, but to no avail.
Frame from the film "Everest", based on the history of May 1996
Then Boukreev, who had just returned from the ascent, at night, in the cold, in an impassable blizzard set off to find the missing members of the expedition. Having made 3 trips, he pulled three from him: Pittman, Fox and Madsen. The next day, Stuart Hutchison found two more, but found it impossible to save them. Later Sherpas discovered Scott Fisher, but his condition was hopeless, and they began to save another expedition member. However, later Bukreev tried to save the head of the group, but he found Fischer already dead. The bodies of some of the climbers who died that day are still on Everest.
Who is guilty?
The American journalist Krakauer, who took part in the expedition, in his book "In Thin Air" indirectly blamed Bukreev for the death of 5 people. He believed that the guide should not have left clients on top, and with them wait and only then go to the camp. Anatoly had a different point of view, which he outlined in the book “Ascension”. It presents the facts: the success of the expedition from the very beginning was in question. Recording conversations climbers help restore terrible events, showing the feat not only Bukreeva, but also the other remaining on top of the members of the expedition. Anatoly won the award of the American Alpine Club named after David Souls, which is presented to people who saved climbers in the mountains with the risk to their own lives.
December 1997. An expedition of three men climbs the Himalayan Mount Annapurna, the most dangerous eight thousand meter in the world. At one of the descents of climbers sweeps the avalanche. Two of the three die, among them Bukreev, the famous “tiger of the Himalayas”. His girlfriend Linda Wiley installed a sign at the foot of the mountain with the words she once heard from Anatoly: "The mountains are not stadiums, where I satisfy my ambitions, they are temples, where I profess my religion."
Anatoly Bukreev and Australian Andy Locke on Mount Annapurna